Tuesday, November 7, 2023

It's time - again

A couple months ago I had an idea.  I've been researching and consolidating data and information about our ancestors, our families' history and the times andplaces in which they lived for several decades now.  I remember making lists of names and dates of my mother's cousins - she had over a hundred first cousins - while still in Alaska - that would be before 1992.  Since then I have found more time to research and consolidate through writing, there is so much more information available in websites online, and my interest is spiked through travel, visiting places which are a part of our history and interacting with others who research and write family histories.

Putting together a book I have found to be a daunting challenge, a challenge I enjoy so much, but I need to find another way of way of expressing my joys and findings, a way that may not require as much uniformity but can be more scattered and spontaneous.  The idea was daily essays.

I chose to share the daily writings on October first, the first day of a water year, a year that reaches from the first of October to the end of September, a year that defining the collection and recording of information about water such as a streamflow and rain.  This is the year that I worked with while I was an employee of the US Geological Survey-Water Resources Division.

So I wrote several essays in preparation of October first.  My idea was taking shape.  And then it happened.  October first came and went and the essays stayed on my computer.  The idea slipped and needed new energy and probable modification.  Now it's a week into November and I'm taking the advice of an author, Julia Cameron, who says (paraphrased), "Just write."

Sheinelle Jones of the Today morning show on NBC ran the New York marathon this past weekend.  She said that it's didn't feel like a reality until she announced on the air that she was going to run the marathon.  This is my announcement that I will make routine entries in this blog.  I don't plan to win the marathon, only complete it.  Please bear with me and check in periodically.

Here's what I wrote formy intended ideal first day:

Water Year - One – A Yearly Start 

The start of each year is arbitrary, and pontiffs of the calendar know that. Ask anyone, especially of European descent; they will say: “The year starts on January first.” Of course, if one revisits and analyzes the names of the months of the European calendar, you will note that September, October, November and December imply a seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth month which goes on to imply that March is the first month of the year.  Really?

In the realm of finance one might note that January first, October first or July first each could be the beginning of a financial year. The US government needs to get its budget complete by October first, more or less. At the US Geological Survey we had to close the books on June 30th. I have to pay my taxes based on financial activities by the end of December 31st. 

When asked how much rain you got in a year the answer is typically given from October to September. This is typically the water year. What was the highest stage of the river this year? A hydrologist would answer as if the year started on October first and ended a year later. 

 Now determining the end of the year is much simpler; it’s when the sun and earth align the same as when that year started. Another way of saying that is that the year is complete when the earth makes a complete revolution around the sun. So the end of a year is dependent on the beginning. Astronomically the year is a bit more that 365 earth days, each day being represented by a sunrise and sunset. If one were observing the rotations of the earth from the North Star, or any other star for that matter, one would count about 366¼ rotations. It’s complex, even more complex than what has been eluded to here, but as humans we have no control over how often the earth rotates before if returns to the same position relative to the sun. 

 So be it. 

 That leaves the question as to when one might start a new habitat or activity. Actually the answer is any time, it’s arbitrary. There is a preponderance to start new year resolutions on January first. I thought I would attempt to start this blog consistent with the water year: October first. Being that it’s well into October, I can safely say that I did not succeed with that intention. 

There is no great urgency or requirement for me to start a blog at this point is life. Mostly it’s my urgency; it’s my desire to record my thoughts. And to share them on the basis that someone may actually be interested, like how long a year is from the point of view of an earth-bound human or a star-bound alien, or when humans have arbitrarily determined when a year should start and end, or when the laws of the universe define when the year is complete. 

As a retired mathematician, toymaker, college-instructor I’m working very hard to be that – retired.  I try to not make a list of things to do; this blog idea be counter to that objective. Most days are filled with a morning routine and a step out the front door at which time a list of things-to-do creates itself. I will use the same approach to topics for this blog. Today you were exposed to the start of a new year, a new habit and an explanation of measuring a year.

Join me.  Just write.  Just enjoy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Finale is Just the Beginning

I would say "we're home" except as they say "home is where the heart is" and we've been home these past two months even though we were in different places.  More accurately, and probably philosophically more pragmatic, we're back where the grass needs to be mowed and the weeds pulled.  And there are dozens of appointments and engagements to be met.

In short, this was trip was everything we hoped for and more.  Our visits were uplifting and inspiring, filling our hearts and minds with wealth.  We drove just short of 15,000 miles, visited with about 150 individuals not including clerks, cashiers and other service oriented persons, and passed through 39 states in sixty-one days..  Regrettably we missed many friends and family for a variety of reasons such as we've seen them recently, we see them routinely, we will see them in the near future, we ran out of time or energy, we didn't make adequate contact, or our timing was off as the persons we were to visit were out of town.

The weather varied from a couple days in the 90's in Arizona and many other days when the morning temperatures dipped below freezing.  Fortunately the heater in the van worked well once we figured out how to use it we were quite comfortable.  There was a bit of rain but mostly storm clouds and almost constant wind.

Now we are mowing, gardening, quilting and crocheting, reconnecting with tasks and friends in Oregon and looking forward to the next adventure which probably won't involve so much driving.  New energy levels require new tasks.  We'll wait and see what's next.  For now blogging is on hiatus.

PS - There's an awesome camper van, aka coverage wagon, available for purchase.  It's comfortable, quite carefree and great for a traveling couple.


Sunday, May 15, 2022

It's Time

It's time!

Yes, it's time that we express our appreciation to everyone and for everyone that is making this adventure so meaningful.  As we approach the final days of this moment in time, we feel this overwhelming gratitude to all who made it possible.

There's no one in particular to whom we owe the greatest gratitude so the order with which we write this is random.

There are those whom we see on our security camera as they come to check on the house and water the plants.  These folks make us feel secure about what earthly possessions we left behind.  Thank you.  We look forward to returning to the beginning and end of this adventure.

One of the reasons for this trip, the initial and primary reason, is to visit family and friends.  That we have done, unfortunately not everyone we call friend or family have seen us.  Those whom we have seen so far have gone beyond any of our fondest expectations in making us feel welcome and in sharing with us this snapshot in time.  We know that there are those whom we will never see again.  There are those whom we have not seen for a long time, those whom we see routinely, and those whom we had never seen before this trip.  There has been and will be a great deal of reflection on each and every person we have encountered on this trip.  Thank you for taking a moment in time to share your lives with us.

Certainly we wish to thank all of you at home who have stepped up to the plate to take on the tasks we would normally do around the community.  We know that these tasks will be cared for long into the future.  Thank you.

And we need to thank Charlie, our four-legged companion, who keeps us on our toes and brings us smiles with his enthusiasm, energy and playful quirks.  Charlie, you will certainly be happy to be home with the leash to be replaced with unfettered acreage for romping.


Friday, May 13, 2022


Alas!  The scenery is becoming more Denvy-like, or at least the scenery is the type with which Denvy really feels comfortable.  There are vast open spaces, mountains that dominate the horizon with white, and black, and blue, brown and green, and rivers that run clear and wide, streams that bounce down the mountains deep in narrow gouges, clouds that sparkling white among the blue and others that loom dark with rain, lakes that reflect the vanishing horizon or ripple white with random wind tossed waves, and broad farmed valleys with mountains on each side.


I don’t know where or when the seed for that attraction happened, I just know it’s in my being.


And there’s lots of this scenery, which you know if you’ve ever crossed Montana from side to side.  We entered Montana from the south near Billings and overnighted in Bozeman.  Apparently WalMart in Bozeman is popular, needed and well used.  It had it’s own section for campers.  There were many RV’s in the apparent designated corner.


Out of Bozeman we drove to the south edge of Whitefish or the north edge of Kalispell (your choice) to visit nephew Rory Cameron and his wife Tricia.  They moved to this acreage from southern California several years ago.  She does legal work from her home computer and he expresses this love of the outdoors, nature and animals with his horses, his manicured garden and construction projects.  One son graduated from high school last year and the other will graduate in June.  Both were off doing their thing so we didn't see them.


After a brief 15-minute drive south, still between Whitefish and Kalispell, we supped a stew and sourdough bread with great-nephew Peter (son of Bill and Cherie), his wife Sarah (also the cook) and their two elementary school daughters.  I had a great deal of fun with the girls as they were eager to share their newfound activity of crocheting.  They had learned to chain and so they were creating long chains.  Someday they will learn from their mother how to crochet and double crochet and turn and increase and maybe even a magic circle.  I hope to follow their progress.  Oh, by the way, this is a family of serious hikers which works well with Glacier National Park and many mountain trails just minutes away.


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Really Good Old High School Friends

Ree, Tim, Melodie, Al


We're now a full eight weeks into this experiment, this trek, this adventure, this road trip.  As expected we're starting to feel the urge to get back to the home pastures.  But there's more to do and we will do it before the lawn gets mowed at home.

This may be a bit out of chronological order but here is the latest.  It’s a long haul between the last visit and the next so we split this drive into two shorter jaunts allowing a bit of time for napping, checking emails, getting some paperwork done and writing two entries into the blog.


Our hope Monday morning as we left Rapid City was to see the Custer State Park bison.  We swooped south, followed the “backest” of back road and only saw one by the road and four or five up a ravine in the distance.  We’ll settle for a prairie dog town, a scattering of deer, some prone horned antelope, a singleton wild turkey and lots of rocks that camouflaged as wannabe wildlife.  Despite the lack of bison the drive was so much like home.


Late midday we arrived at the home of a dear high school friend of mine, Tim, and his sweet wife, Ree.  Even though we’ve driven by Belle Fourche a time or two before, times that were rushed for one reason or another, this was the first visit in this home after about 50 years since we saw them in the earlier home in Hebron.  Ree is a music major and has three keyboard instruments – an upright piano, a harpsichord, and a “new one on me,” a butterfly grand.  It’s smaller than a baby grand; it’s symmetric with two covers that open for louder sounds on both sides making it look like a butterfly.  Who would have known?


I needed to call ahead to another classmate (Melodie) adjusting the next day’s schedule who was a good friend of Tim’s but had not seen or heard from Tim since graduation.  I put the phone on the table with the speaker on and told them who was on the phone.  What a delight it was to hear them reconnect after 60 years.  This will be a highlight in this trip.


We drove three hours, one hour from Melodie and Al’s home, and found a parking spot with our favorite truckers and fellow RVers in a WalMart lot in Sheridan, Wyoming.  Melodie was a classmate in high school.  I remember Tim’s father taking him, myself and Melodie to see a movie in the neighboring town when we were in high school.  It was El Cid.  Melodie went on to college and married Al whom she met there.  She continues to teach as a substitute while Al who operates a radio station has recently purchased an old vacated Ben Franklin store which they are remodeling to house a half dozen boutiques.  Their dream is to revitalize the old downtown of Hardin, Montana.

We swung back a few miles from Hardin to tour the Little Big Horn Battlefield, a National Park.  We love our old-person free National Park passes!  This park was very nicely laid out and displayed with headstones scattered throughout the hillsides where soldiers and warriors died. It was a major clash of cultures and so many young men on both sides died.


Now we are soaking in the sun after several more hours of driving, parked in our favorite chain of camp sites – WalMart.


South Dakota


Today, among other things, was a day of clouds.  The morning was routine, overcast and blah.  Midday was sunny and quite pleasant.  We spent early afternoon with friends and as we were about to leave we could hear heavy rain which included a few moments of hail.  


And then it started.  


As we drove west out of South Dakota, the clouds to the north were dark as night.  To the southwest big fluffy white ones were set off by a dark backdrop of  threatening clouds.  We were headed northwest and it looked bright.


The drive was some two hundred miles and the conditions changed by the moment.  The road tended to the west and the southwest clouds slipped behind us.  Then to the northwest and the west the skies darkened as the northern ones had a dash of white amid the appearance of rain; it was snow.  Minutes became hours and the road turned wet but our windshield remained dry.  Over the next ridge the edges of the road were white; possibly hail or snow.  Now the threatening clouds cautiously slipped behind us while others grew in the north, then the south, and even in the west.  Whenever we drove directly toward clouds, the route changed and we skirted between the showers.  Still no need for wipers.  However, Gail was constantly taking pictures as the clouds morphed in color, shape, tone, height, and threatening appearance.  It rained the entire evening and we enjoyed the displays without hardly a drip on the windows.


Sunday started with a quick breakfast in a cafĂ© with my lifelong friend John.  Our parents were friends and we were born months apart so we probably played with each other in our cribs.  We attended six years of grade school together and after six years apart as his father followed his teaching career we landed in the same college.  While his career followed time in Viet Nam and teaching, he now gathers plant and soil samples for a ranching experiment for NDSU; going strong at 77 he is.


After a four-hour drive from Dickinson along the North/South Dakota border we spent a couple hours on the ranch/farm of the Scarboroughs.  Mrs. Pam Scarborough was my 51-year old niece who died just three months ago.  This day was pleasant allowing us an opportunity to chat outside on the deck while throwing the ball for our dogs  Their two-year old golden lab likes to fetch as much as Charlie.  Charlie also enjoyed the freedom of the open fields, the cattle and a peer who could match his athletic abilities.  Pam’s sister Sharla came by for Mother’s Day along with three of her five children, so there were a total of six great nephews and nieces roaming the yard and sharing stories about school and stuff.


After another three-hour drive we shared our evening meal with Samantha, an adopted daughter of Gail’s brother Stuart.  Sam is a traveling nurse and is just about to complete her contract in Rapid City.  She shared many stories about her nursing here and there but also threw in a few about raising a post-secondary school son back in Florida.  It sometimes seems like a miracle that we get through raising our families.


Overnight was in another WalMart in Rapid City.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Ken, Joyce, Jim, Jane, Denvy, Darlys

While there have been numerous surprises or unexpected events on this journey, last evening was notable.  We expected to park in some vacant lot in Hebron last night, however, we received an unexpected phone call inviting us to stay in this lady’s mother’s yard, a farm yard.  The lady, Kerry, was a student when I worked at the University of Jamestown, actually she worked for me, and we discovered not only that we came from the same home town but that we were remotely related.  Now she’s the town banker.  


Her mother, Pam, was a classmate in Hebron but about six years younger than I.  After we identified ourselves and plugged in the covered wagon, they asked if we wanted to see her quilting.  This was unbelievable.  Her entire basement was filled with shelves of fabrics, and boxes of fabrics, and a couple sewing machines.  Her main floor had quilts of all sizes hanging and lying around; the patterns and colors were quite varied.  Apparently she has done shows and exhibits with as many as a hundred quilts.  The tour was like going through a museum. (We forgot to take pictures.)


This morning we met for brunch with some high school classmates who lived in the area (Jane, Joyce, Jim, Darlys and Ken).  I’ve been to school reunions before but like so many times during this trek, the conversations became quite detailed and reached into the depths of our lives.  There were stories of being discipled in school, working the first cafeteria, after school activities; stories of first jobs and starting families as well as those about classmates who are no longer with us.  We reviewed old pictures and discussed where we sat in the classroom.  Some of us even remembered that we sat alphabetically our senior year.


Finally we took a picture with the six of us who came together and quickly reminisced the classmates who weren’t with us, about 11 out of 30.  Our hugs had the underlining theme that this may be the last time we share stories and hugs.  The official 60th class reunion is this summer but this was a gift from these five to meet us during our time passing through.  This trip is so important to all of us.